Month: June 2010

Small groups are the building blocks of small churches

Our church is typical of many established, small town churches.  Three years ago, our congregation was made up mostly of older adults.  Of course, older adults are the backbone of many congregations.  They provide a higher-than-average amount of financial support, they attend with above-average faithfulness, and they love their church.

Our senior adults are wonderful, and they realized that for our church’s future we needed to reach out to younger adults and young families.  But the mass mailings we had tried did not produce new visitors.  To add to our difficulty, the region in which we live has been in an economic downturn for several years.  Few jobs exist for younger adults, and few young families were moving to our area.

But three years ago we started a younger adult Sunday School class with about 5 younger adults.  I’m using the term “younger” because age is a relative thing.  We needed to reach folks in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s, but we weren’t going to do that all at once.  We believed that if we started lowering the age-range, we would eventually reach young families with young children.

Yesterday at our church-wide covered-dish lunch, 12 children were running around the fellowship hall while the adults finished eating and talking.  Six of the 12 were preschoolers; 5 are elementary schoolers; and, 1 is a middle schooler. These are our class members’ children.  As the sound of giggles and laughter bounced around the room, all of us were glad to see children playing around us, again.

Our class also had a record attendance yesterday with 19 present. A couple of our class members were out, so the number could have been higher.  These younger adults have already begun taking leadership positions.  One was elected a deacon last year, another takes a turn once a month leading our children’s time during worship, and 6 of the class members are leading our new Family Ministry Team.

Three years ago we started with five.  Now there are over 20.  Our class with their children now account for 20-30% of our attendance each week.

Starting a new class or small group isn’t glamorous, and it’s not a new idea.  But, starting a new class is a strategy that works.  I remember years ago Lyle Schaller, author and church consultant, saying “new people need new groups.”  If you want to attract new people to your church, start a new class, be patient, practice hospitality, and watch as the group grows and matures.  Small groups are still the building blocks of small churches.

What is the Gospel?

I have resisted getting into this because I keep telling myself, “This is not what you do here at Confessions of a Small-Church Pastor.”  Normally, I don’t engage in theological discussions, particularly those that are the equivalent of how many angels can stand on the head of a pin.  But, today I can’t help myself because some discussion is taking place around the interwebs about “what is the gospel?”

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Sermon: Facing the Impossible

When facing the impossible God might have another idea.  After all, God still does the impossible work of changing lives everyday.

Facing The Impossible

I Kings 17:8-16, 17-24
Luke 7:11-17
Galatians 1:11-24

An Impossible Mission

Have you ever faced a situation you thought was impossible?  One in which there seemed no way out, no solution, no possibility of resolving it positively?

Well, today we have four stories, from both the Old and New Testaments that were all stories of impossible situations. I don’t think I’ve ever preached on four different passages before, or told four stories from three different books of the Bible, but it’s important for us to hear today what happens when we “face the impossible.”

Of course, you remember the old TV series, Mission Impossible.  Tom Cruise made several movies by the same name, but I prefer the TV series because it was a little more believable, and a little less high tech than the movie versions.

Each week the show opened with one of the agents, usually Jim Phelps played by Peter Graves, getting the team’s next assignment on a taped message.

The taped message was always the same:

“Good morning, Mr. Phelps.  Your mission, should you decide to accept it is….” And then the voice on the tape would explain the mission for the IMF, Impossible Mission Force, to undertake.

At the conclusion of the explanation, the voice then said, “This tape will self-destruct in 5 seconds.”  And it did, all to ominous, “spy-sounding” music courtesy of musical director, Lalo Schifrin.

At times, life feels like an impossible mission, and there are four real-life stories I want us to look at this morning.

Continue reading “Sermon: Facing the Impossible”